Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker review: Baby’s got bass
The Mi Smart Speaker offers a powerful, over-flowing sound that is hard to miss or ignore. It might not be an enchantress but it certainly is adept in getting a party started.
Product: Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker
Key specs: Google Assistant support, Hi-Fi audio processor, far-field mics, 12W speaker, built-in Chromecast
Xiaomi is a company known for providing quality with affordability. It has a wide portfolio of products right from robotic vacuum cleaners to water purifiers to meet the various demands of its users. Recently, the company entered the smart speaker segment in India by launching the Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker.
Mi Smart Speaker costs ₹3,999 in India and it competes with the likes of Google Nest Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot in the budget smart speaker segment. But unlike the smart speakers by Amazon and Google that are powered by their own virtual assistants, Alexa and Google Assistant respectively, the smart speaker by Xiaomi is powered by Google Assistant, but you can't hold that against it.
There are few smart speakers in the budget segment in India right now. With big leagues like Google and Amazon, one might think that a smart speaker by Xiaomi might not stand a chance both in terms of sound and the smarts. But the Mi Smart Speaker not only checks all the right boxes it also provides a tough competition to all others in this segment.
It has the brains of Google, the beauty of Xiaomi and sound that distinctly reminds you of the Bose Home Speaker 300. We wouldn't go as far as comparing the Mi Smart Speaker with Bose's version of a not-so-pricey-yet-extremely-costly version of a smart speaker. So for now, let's stick to the budget smart speaker segment of which Xiaomi's smart speaker is the latest member.
Remember, how I told you to forget all about Home Speaker 300? Well, I'm gonna need you to keep it in your thoughts just a little bit longer.
The Mi Smart Speaker measures 131x104x151mm and it weighs just 853 grams. It is made of a metallic casing that has a total of 10,531 sound holes that are aimed at helping this smart speaker distribute sound uniformly in all directions, which in turn makes the sound seem fuller. We'll get to that part a little later. The top and bottom parts of the Mi Smart Speaker are made of plastic. You get a flat top that has two far-field microphones along with four touch-sensitive buttons. While two of these buttons can be used for controlling the volume of this smart speaker, the other two can be used for playing/pausing and muting the microphone.
The top of the Mi Smart Speaker has a ring-like LED structure that lights up every time you summon Google Assistant. It glows in an Alexa-like blue-green colour when everything is alright and Google is responding to your requests and orange when the mic is on mute or if there is some error in connectivity. At the back, there is a port that connects to the power adapter that helps Xiaomi's smart speaker to keep serving our heart's desire.
Overall, the Mi Smart Speaker looks quite similar to the Home Speaker 300 that was launched last year. Sure, there are some subtle yet important differences as well. For instance, Mi Smart Speaker has sound holes almost all over its body while the Home Speaker 300 has them in just the lower half of its body. Similarly, the Mi Smart Speaker has the light ring encircling the top of the device, while Bose's ‘budget' smart speaker has one in a small arc-like structure in the front. Despite these differences, both these smart speakers look the same, well, almost the same, which is not a bad thing at all.
I have used the Home Speaker 300 in the past and one of the many things that I like about it is that it blends in its surroundings seamlessly. The Mi Smart Speaker is no different (like I said, a good thing). It's small, it's light and its elliptical design is a perfect fit for any home.
Coming to the sound, the Mi Smart Speaker is a power performer. It produces a powerful sound that leans towards the bass-side of things. It's strong and it packs a punch, just the way I like it.
During my time the Mi Smart Speaker I listen to a variety of songs right from EDM classics such as David Guetta's Titanium and Faded by Alan Walker to electro-pop melodies such as Lost in the Wild by Walk The Moon to scores of Country music songs and Pop songs such as Lean on by Major Lazer and the thing that I couldn't stop admiring about this tiny blob was the punch that it packed in every beat. I could feel the vibrations in the air (and on the surface) every time I played a bass-heavy song at a volume above 40%.
But it's not all rainbows and sunshine. While this smart speaker is loud and punchy, it tends to miss out on clarity, especially when playing music at volume above 70%. At slightly lower volume, say between 40-50%, the clarity does get better. I also played softer songs like Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol and My Baby Loves Lovin' by White Plains and Photograph by Ed Sheeran and I could feel that there was something amiss, especially at higher volume levels.
But this is not a thing that I would fret about keeping in view the amount that the Mi Smart Speaker is asking for. But what it lacks in clarity, it makes up for in loudness.
The Xiaomi smart speaker is loud, like really loud. At 20% volume it is loud enough that you can hear music in your room with clarity and at around 80% volume, you can hear it sing across a large 3BHK apartment clearly. Suffice to say that this smart speaker is capable of being the life of a small get-together in your home with ease.
Talking about the smart side of things, the Mi Smart Speaker, as I had mentioned before, is powered by Google Assistant, which means that you can ask Google to do everything from checking your calendar entry to giving you daily news updates to calling your friends and family via Duo to controlling your connected smart home devices. All these features work mostly fine without any hiccups. The only caveat is the time when you are listening to music at top volume levels and you suddenly ask Google to perform a task.
The Mi Smart Speaker, unlike its cousins from Google (Nest Mini) and Amazon (Echo Dot 4th gen) which come with three and four far-field mics respectively, comes with two far-field mics. This might put it at a slight back-footing compared to the budget smart speakers by Google and Amazon sometimes. During my time with it, sometimes, not often, but sometimes, the Google Assistant failed to respond to my requests from a distance when the volume was too high, something it did easily when it was a bit lower.
Apart from this, I also tried pairing this tiny smart speaker with a smart TV to see how well the Chromecast functionality worked. Admittedly, the Mi Smart Speaker gave me no hiccups at all.
Now, the most important question: Is the Mi Smart Speaker worth buying? Well, the answer to this is a simple one -- Yes, it is.
The Mi Smart Speaker offers a powerful, over-flowing sound that is hard to miss or ignore. It might not be an enchantress but it certainly is adept in getting a party started. Sound aside, the smart features also get a thumbs up. Be it controlling the smart devices or performing daily chores, the Mi Smart Speaker almost never misses a beat. The cherry on top of the cake is its simple design that seems to blend in any surrounds that you put it in. All in all, the Mi Smart Speaker is a great smart speaker, especially at a sub-5K price point.
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